Monday, May 30, 2011

"Funny, she doesn't look Druish!"

"Funny, she doesn't look Druish!"

I've never made it a secret that I am Cuban.

I will admit that when I was younger, I might not have embraced it as much.  Like Abuela likes to say, I lost my Spanish for a while and basically had to relearn the language when I joined the workforce. I wanted to be a gringa so bad. I dyed my hair blonde and wore blue contacts as soon as I was able. I never listened to Spanish music and called my sister a ref for liking it. I said I was going to marry an American and move far, far away from Miami the first chance I got.  So yeah, I fell in love and married an American and we did move 1,500 miles from Northern Cuba - but I think I would've loved Mi Gringito whatever his nationality was.

Now that I am not surrounded by it, I have this inner urge to express my Cuban-ness as much as I can.  No, I'm not running around wearing a Cuban flag as a bikini or humming the Cuban National Anthem or anything of the sort...I just want to express it. I speak to Mi Gringito in Spanish very frequently. It doesn't matter if he understands or not -- he will eventually learn! Plus, I'm going to make it a point to teach our future children both languages.

Due to this need of expressing my roots, if anyone is listening, I let it slip that I'm Cuban in our conversation. When people get this little nugget of information, I get one of two responses: "Funny, you don't look Cuban--I would've never guessed!" or "I thought I heard an accent!" -- Huh? How can I get answers from both sides of the spectrum? I mean, I haven't gotten any gray area in this -- not once!

How do I respond to these comments?  I usually just smile and keep my big 'ol Cuban mouth shut. Anyway, what the hell can you say to these comments?

"Funny, you don't look Cuban--I would've never guessed!"
My response: "Oh really! I didn't know that Cuban was a 'look'! Funny, most Cubans I know look alot like me."

"I thought I heard an accent!"
My response: "Me? Seriously? Have you even noticed that you say 'paaaaaahk the cahhhhhh' instead of 'park the car'?"

This second comment irks me more than the first, in reality. When I was in Miami and worked in hotels, not one day would go by that I wouldn't have a guest comment that I surprisingly didn't have an accent both in English & Spanish.  It was one of the things I strived to have: an ambiguous accent.
"Babe, do I sound like these women?"

I still remember watching the first episode of "The Real Housewives of Miami" and suddenly turning to Mi Gringito and asking him, "Babe, do I sound like these women?" He responded, "No way!"

You could imagine my horror, when a few weeks later I was speaking with a friend and she said, "You know, your accent is exactly like Alexia's from the Real Housewives!" My response? I just smiled sweetly.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vanity -- Striving to be unique...

Back in Miami, you have the option of 121 different vanity plates (yes, I counted!) if you were so inclined to be unique and pay the additional annual tag fee for said plate. You can see them littered across the congested highways.  You name it, they most likely have a plate for it.

Up here?  Not so much.  The State of New Hampshire only has their basic plate, a Veteran plate and two conservation plates (One is a Moose, the other is for the state park which grants you free admissions).  That's it. Nothing fancy schmancy.

Va que chifla!

I never paid it any mind until I started noticing the clever vanity slogans on the regular plates.  It seems anyone who is anyone (i.e. not me) has a plate like this.  I've seen it all: GANDALF (LOTR), SCHRUTE (The Office), IPB4IGO ("I pee before I go"), CRZYBUS, &CRASH&...and many, many more!

I have to give credit where credit is due.  Some of these people are geniuses!  I give a big, "Hurrah!" for these people who strive for uniqueness when they are limited. I sometimes can be entertained for the whole car trip just trying to decipher some of them.

Although I'm not planning on shelling out the additional $50 or however much it costs annually for the special plates, I have come up with a list of some I would definitely consider...some are obvious, but can you figure out the others?

I-K-PEO (This one is for Mi Gringito, not me!)

Un beso!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pollo A La Plancha con Vegetales Mixto y Estuffing...

I am sometimes at a loss for what to make for dinner. I honestly do not like to be repetitive because even the tastiest thing the in the world can get boring if that's what you eat day in and day out. Hence my utter loathing of picadillo, but that's another story for another day.

Today I was stuck in that predicament. I have to thank God that Mi Gringito isn't a picky eater.  I honestly don't think he has ever said something I have cooked was not good.  I oftentimes joke to him that I could probably serve him roasted poo and he'd like it.

I decided on simple and flavorful.  Seasoned chicken with vegetables and stuffing.  This has got to be one of the simplest dishes to cook and it honestly takes very little time.  If you preseason your chicken and leave it marinating in the fridge for the day, you can have yourself a pretty darn good meal in under thirty minutes once you get home.

Pollo A La Plancha con Vegatales Mixto y Estuffing...

  • Chicken Breasts
  • Olive Oil (twice around the skillet)
  • Dry White Cooking Wine
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Cumin
  • Sazon Completa (optional)
  • 1 pk Frozen Mixed Vegatables
  • 1 pk Stove Stop Stuffing - Whole Wheat Chicken

Cut your chicken breasts into 1/4" thick pieces. Season both sides of the pieces with the garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and sazon completa.  I don't use measurements, I just make sure they are completely covered in seasoning.  You can omit the sazon completa for a less salty version.

Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet.  Cook the chicken pieces approximately 6 minutes on each side, pouring some cooking wine into the skillet at the three minute mark on each side.

Can you hear it sizzle?

Place the frozen vegetables in a steamer bag (I use Reynolds Zip & Steam Bags) and add about 1/2 Tbsp of sazon completa.  Steam according to package directions.

I use these things day in and day out!

Prepare Stuffing according to package directions.

Mi Gringito loved it and I think it rivals any chicken I've eaten at La Carreta or Latin America!

Since I am on a dieta (cuando no?), I opted out of the "estuffing" and gave myself more veggies.  Mi Gringito was allowed the full experience. Mmmm...que rico!

Can't forget postre...Mi Gringito ate one of the muffins and I had a bowl of mixed fruits:  blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe & oranges.

One Billion Calories!

A lot less calories!

On a side note, I honestly love the smell the house gets after I cook something...the fact that my hair and clothes smell that way? Not so much!

Happy Cooking & Eating!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ay, What's That Smell?

There's a saying that if you experience something good you will tell one person, however, if you experience something bad you will tell ten people.  Don't quote me, but it's something like that. I agree with that statement and I definitely will let people know if something esta de madre, but I also love to sing the praises of things that I like.

I came across one such item at a local boutique on Main Street a few days after I had moved up here. I had read about said item in a magazine a few months earlier and thought it was a gimmick; you know, something to buy as a gag gift along the same lines as bacon flavored lip balm or Play-Doh scented cologne (yes, these both exist). The item in question was Poo-Pourri. I know you are asking, "Well D, que es eso? Like it's name indicates it is a spray that is like potpourri masking your poo.  You read right: a poo disguiser! The store in question was not a novelty store by any means so I figured that if they carried an item it had to be legit. I decided to buy a little bottle and try it out.  Worst case scenario is that it didn't work and I'd be out only $10 -- Lord knows I have done worse than that.

I took it home and gave it the ultimate test: Mi Gringito.

Well, what do you know?  The stuff works! All you have to do is spray the actual toilet water before you do your stuff and VOILA! The only scent in the room is the spray...don't believe me?  Try it yourself!

After my experiment, I marched right back to the boutique and bought four more bottles.  Two large ones for the house and two small ones that I sent to Mami & Papi. I took the original little bottle that I bought to work and spread the good news to all my co-workers (we had been discussing the need of gas masks in the ladies room lately). I love the stuff! I've also been known to give it to friends as a housewarming gift or a "just because" gift.  I'm telling you guys: check this stuff out! Prices range from $9.95 for the 2oz. bottle to $16.95 for the gift pack of a bottle and a roll of toilet paper. This isn't going to break the bank, people.  I bought our bottles sometime last May and they are halfway used up -- I say it's a great investment.

You won't be saying, "Fo, que peste!" if you use this!
Now I've only tested two of their fragrances: Heaven Scent & Royal Flush. Heaven Scent is has a light lemony scent, but I sometimes think it smells a bit like Fresh Step Kitty Litter. Royal Flush has a scent more akin to men's cologne.  Their website boasts a total of 11 scents as well as pet odor eliminator, auto aromatherapy and soiled diaper odor eliminator.  Wow, I am atras del palo and will have to test some of these newer items out!

Whatever the case, give it a shot and let me know!

Un beso muy grande de mi parte! XOXO!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guayaba con Queso Crema Muffins

It is no secret that I believe that Guayaba is Ambrosia of the Gods with Cafe Cubano being their Nectar. I never realized how much I loved it until it wasn't readily available.  As a little girl, my Abuelo would get up every Saturday morning and walk to the bakery on the next block and bring home pastelitos and pan cubano.  My sister and I would wake up to Abuela banging on pots (more on this later) with our cafe con leches at the ready.
Anyone up for a colada?

Abuelo would be waiting with a smile on his face holding that familiar white box seeming as if this treat he had for us was the most important thing in his life at that very moment. Looking back, it probably was.  We were each allowed to pick two pastries each.  My sister always chose the pastel de queso and something else.  I honestly don't remember because I was always too engrossed in my choice that could make my mouth water just thinking about it: un pastel de carne y uno de guayaba. I still smile at the memories.

You mean I can only have one?

As we grew older, and he in turn grew older, the pastelitos became less frequent.  Mami took over the pastel run, and let's be honest...I don't think she put as much heart in it. I'm not knocking her effort, it just seems like she'd fill the box a lo loca. Sometimes, by the time I got to box, all that was left were those triangular shaped ones.  You know, el pastel de guayaba con queso. Yes, they had my beloved guayaba in them...but I wasn't sold on the cheese. I've always been sort of freakish when it comes to my dairy goods, so anything that is a dairy product and is left al aire really gives me the heebie jeebies. I sucked it up one fine Saturday morning and grabbed one.  I nuked it in the microwave for about 15 seconds and took a bite.  Oh wow! The party in my mouth was indescribable.  Why on Earth had I ignored this deliciousness for so long? Who was the evildoer that had kept me in the dark this long? That didn't matter.  What mattered was that I had a new love. Now, every time I visit the family in Miami, I ask for three things: un cafe, pan cubano and un pastel de guayaba con queso. 

Although I am blessed with non-material riches in abundance -- the material kind is what can get me to Miami as frequently as possible.  If it were up to me, I'd be there at least once a month. Alas, those riches are a bit scarce so I am oftentimes left longing for some of the goodies I grew up with.

Why am I telling this to you, my loyal readers?  Well, it is merely to segue into the first official recipe from my cocina into yours!

Mi Gringito loves guayaba almost as much as I do, it seems, so he always get an extra skip to his step when he sees I've been experimenting. This isn't the first recipe I've conjured with guayaba, but La Suegra came home the other day super excited because she had found a grocery store in the next town over that had, and I quote, "A huge Hispanic aisle," -- my response, "I will be the judge of that!" She had bought me a few things and I will admit, this establishment had piqued my interest.  She brought home some frozen empanadas, a cube of guayaba paste, and an itty-bitty bottle of mojo. Seeing the cube of guayaba paste, my brain started to churn.  I recently made a cream-cheese stuffed carrot cake muffin.  I knew that I could use the basics of that recipe  to make the foundation of what I was building in my noggin.  I'm sure that by the time I got home from dropping off Mi Gringito at work, my ears were smoking!

Guayaba con Queso Crema Muffins

Vanilla Extract
Lime Juice
1/4 C Sugar
8oz Whipped Cream Cheese
1/4 C Oil
1 Medium Egg
1 C Milk
1/2 C Sugar
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
2 C Flour
Coarse Sparkling Sugar

Preheat oven to 400*F. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper cups or well-oil the actual tin.

In a small bowl, combine the whipped cream cheese, 1/4 c of sugar, 1 tsp of lime juice and 1 tsp of vanilla extract.  Mix well. Set aside.

Must resist urge to curl up with this and a spoon!

Cut three slices from the guava cube approximately half an inch each.  Cut those slices in four equal chunks.  You should now have 12 separate half inch cubes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oil, egg, milk, sugar, salt & 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix well with a fork or wire whisk.

Measure in the baking powder and flour. Mix again until all of the dough particles are moistened. Do not over mix (approximately 20-30 strokes should do it).

Spoon approximately 1 Tbsp of the batter into each of the muffin cups.

Place a guava cube in the center of each muffin.

Top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture. You will have some mixture left over. (YAY!!!)

Cover with remaining muffin batter to fill the muffin cups quite full.

Scatter the tops of the muffins with the coarse sugar.

Bake the muffins for 20 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the oven and immediately tilt them in their cups.

Do you see the cheese oozing out?!?

And Viola!  This recipe is 100% Mi Gringito approved!  Tell me what you think!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Welcome of Sorts...

Welcome readers! I guess introductions are in order.  The name's D and I've been wanting to begin a blog for some time. Why, you may ask?  Well, in all honesty, all of this locura floating around in my head needs an outlet!
Biscayne Bay, Miami, FL
Frozen Tundra, New England

To summarize my life in a nutshell: I was born and raised in Miami, FL to Cuban parents. A little over a year ago, I packed up all of my belongings and along with my husband (we can call him Mi Gringito) moved approximately 1,500 miles North to a small town in Northern New England. Que cambio! I traded in my capris and tank-tops for thermal underwear and ice-cleats. The change was good albeit very different.  The climate works wonders for my hair, the traffic is close to non-existent, and people are a million times more polite. There are just some things that I truly feel that I took for granted when I was living in what some people refer to lovingly as Northern Cuba. For example: You can't get un cafecito anywhere! I have to go to Starbucks or something along those lines and pay what seems to me an obscene amount of money for an espresso shot.  Does. Not. Taste. Like. Abuelas. Most of the grocery stores have an "international" section that is, I kid you not, about a two-foot-wide section of shelf space that is mostly crammed with Mexican staples. But I digress.  I have been able to survive with the limited grocery selections and I sometimes call Mami for a care package. Thus far, she has sent me canned guava marmalade, sazon completa, una tostonera, a cafetera, chorizo...just to name a few.

I don't have the luxury of a Cuban restaurant every other block, so when I am craving the goods, I have to cook it myself.  I admit, I am getting pretty good at it and my Ropa Vieja tastes almost like Abuela's and that's saying alot!

So readers, you will get my outsiders view of New England life, some Cuban recipes (and not so Cuban) that I've conjured up in my boredom among other things.  I look forward to our wonderful life together!